Parkinson (TV series)

Starring Michael Parkinson
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 31
No. of episodes 540
Running time 60 minutes
Original network BBC1 (1971-82, 1987-88, 1998-2004)
ITV (2004-07)
Original release First run:
19 June 1971 (1971-06-19)
10 April 1982
Second run:
28 March 1987 – 23 July 1988 (1988-07-23)
Third run:
9 January 1998 – 22 December 2007 (2007-12-22)

Parkinson is a British television chat show that was presented by Michael Parkinson. It was first shown on BBC1 from 19 June 1971 to 8 May 2004 then on ITV from 4 September 2004 to 22 December 2007.


Parkinson began in 1971 when the host was offered a series of eight shows by the BBC's Head of Light Entertainment, Bill Cotton. It was to be transmitted during the "summer lull"[1] in a late-night slot on Saturdays (which continued throughout its run), plus from 1979 a second mid-week edition when the series was on air.[2] A parallel series was shown in Australia between 1979 and 1982. That year, 1982, Parkinson left the BBC to be co-founder and presenter on the ITV breakfast television station TV-am, where after many schedule upheavals he ended up presenting the Sunday morning programme with his wife, Mary Parkinson.

Michael Parkinson would eventually return to the BBC for further series. However, in between his work for the BBC he did two series of chat shows for Yorkshire Television in 1987–1988 as Parkinson One to One, the format being an interview with a single guest (sometimes employed during his time with the BBC).

He returned to the BBC in August 1995 to present a series of retrospective shows, Parkinson: The Interviews, featuring memorable excerpts, eventually presenting a new, revived version of his chat show on BBC One in January 1998. However, in April 2004, ITV announced that it had "poached" the interviewer from the BBC from the autumn of that year. Parkinson said that he was sad to be leaving the BBC but that he and the channel controller, Lorraine Heggessey, could not agree on a suitable slot for his show following the return of Premiership football highlights to the BBC One Saturday evening schedule. The ITV version of the programme, produced by Granada, debuted in September 2004, with an identical set, theme tune and format to the BBC edition. Its audience was around 6m viewers.[3]

The most recent Parkinson run on the BBC (1998–2004) was one of the few recent British TV programmes that was not made in widescreen. However, his ITV show was recorded in the format with very tight close-ups.

Programme format

Initially Bill Cotton was keen on a format more akin to the USA's Ed Sullivan Show, featuring entertainment and chat. However, Parkinson and his producer, Richard Drewett (who had worked on Late Night Line-Up), envisioned a combination of guests whose celebrity had been achieved in different fields. Their plan was that the final section of each show would become a conversation rather than a formal interview. The pair wanted to move the style as far as possible from the American prototype, even down to the removal of the host's desk, which Parkinson viewed as the "biggest obstacle to a proper interview". At first, Cotton was against this but Drewett convinced him otherwise.[1]

A typical programme included three interviews, each lasting around 15 minutes. It was customary for the first two guests to remain after their own chats to observe and occasionally participate in those that followed. Such contributions were usually made respectfully, and when invited, though this policy backfired on occasion. In addition, some Hollywood stars were honoured in receiving a solo spot, Russell Crowe being one example. On occasion, an episode featured a single guest for its entire duration if the subject was deemed to be sufficiently deserving. This was the case in 2005 when Madonna appeared as part of her Hung Up Promo Tour; besides her interview she performed two songs.

There was usually a musical interlude at some point, featuring a current recording star. If a solo singer, he/she was accompanied by the show's musicians, who also provided the walk-on music for each guest. In the 1970s, the group was led by organist Harry Stoneham, who composed the show's distinctive theme tune. The role was undertaken by Laurie Holloway in the relaunched show.

Interviewing style

Michael Parkinson always sought guests who, besides being well known, had some sort of story to relate. He then saw his job as allowing them to tell it and did so by being open, relaxed and attentive. (He learnt very early on that in order to be an adept interviewer, he had to be a good listener.) He researched his subjects thoroughly, and, in the early shows, always had his list of questions to hand. Having guided them to an area of discussion, he rarely interrupted his guests — except to provide the occasional prompt — instead letting them expand on a particular topic. Sometimes, a person would warm to this style with unpredictable results. For example, he regards his chats with Shirley MacLaine as bordering on flirtatious.[4] In his final programme, broadcast 22 December 2007, Parkinson stated that one of his most memorable interviews was with Jacob Bronowski in 1973.[5]


By his own reckoning, Parkinson interviewed over 2,000 of the world's most famous people,[6] including: Muhammad Ali, Bing Crosby, George Best, Bob Hope, Peter Ustinov, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Redford, Tina Turner, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Hanks, Morecambe and Wise, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Rowan Atkinson, Daniel Craig, Liberace, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Dustin Hoffman, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Bette Midler, Celine Dion, Raquel Welch, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Jon Pertwee, Joan Collins, Leslie Thomas, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Kenneth Williams, Ronnie Barker, Billy Connolly, Gene Wilder, Ewan McGregor, Freddie Starr, David Bowie, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Dave Allen, Michael Crawford, Gary Glitter, John Lennon, Miss Piggy, Noel Gallagher, Tom Cruise, Edith Evans, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, Mark Knopfler, Luciano Pavarotti, Cher, Madonna, Elton John, David Beckham, Victoria Beckham, Geri Halliwell, Shane Warne, Thierry Henry, Ricky Hatton, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams, Ray Winstone, Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Michael Palin, Richard Attenborough, David Attenborough, Mel Gibson, Viggo Mortensen, George Michael, Pierce Brosnan, k.d. lang, Sarah, Duchess of York, Paul Schrader, Peter Sellers, Peter Kay, Paul McCartney, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Clarkson, Simon Cowell, Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy Osbourne, Julie Andrews, Dame Edna Everage, Helen Mirren, Tommy Cooper, Judi Dench, Naomi Campbell, Harold Wilson, Tony Blair, Olivia Newton-John, Billie Piper, David Tennant, Denzel Washington, Gillian Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Sandra Bullock, Joan Rivers, Bonnie Tyler and Buddy Rich.

During the 1970s, he attracted former big-name Hollywood stars, such as Orson Welles, James Stewart, John Wayne, Mickey Rooney, David Niven, Gene Kelly, James Cagney and Robert Mitchum, not on the basis that they had a film to promote, but simply because they wanted a chat. Despite this, Parkinson has since asserted that then as now, "...there was just as much plugging in the seventies as at any time later. To suggest otherwise is to misunderstand the reason people come on to talk shows."[7] In particular, he cites Bette Davis as being the guest who "more than anyone, made it clear she was there to plug a product, not because she was, or ever would be, your buddy."[8]

Many guests appeared more than once and others on numerous occasions. The record for most appearances is held by Scottish Comedian Billy Connolly, having been a guest on fifteen occasions. His final appearance was in Parkinson's penultimate show, broadcast on 16 December 2007.[9]

Rod Hull and Emu

Much to his chagrin, the most repeated clip is of Parkinson's interview with entertainer Rod Hull in 1976. While the pair were chatting, Hull's glove puppet, Emu, continually and (apparently) uncontrollably attacked the interviewer, eventually causing him to fall off his chair. Fellow guest Billy Connolly threatened, "If that bird comes anywhere near me, I'll break its neck and your bloody arm!" Hull swiftly got his "pet" back on best behaviour. Parkinson had always lamented the fact that despite all the star guests he had interviewed over the years, he would probably be remembered for "that bloody bird". However, in an appearance on the TV show Room 101, he got his chance of revenge when the host, Paul Merton, unexpectedly brought Emu locked in a guillotine on stage and Parkinson took his chance by beheading the puppet, saying, "Goodbye, you foul beast."

Notable moments


Michael Parkinson announced his retirement on 26 June 2007:[16]

After three enjoyable and productive years at ITV, and after 25 years of doing my talk show I have decided that this forthcoming series will be my last. I’m going to take next year off to write my autobiography and consider other television projects. My thanks go out to all those who have worked on the shows down the years and the viewers for their loyal support and occasional kind words.

The last regular Parkinson programme (the penultimate of the final series) was broadcast on ITV on 16 December 2007. An extended edition, it featured Billy Connolly, Peter Kay, Michael Caine, David Attenborough, Judi Dench, David Beckham, Jamie Cullum and Dame Edna Everage. The episode drew in 8.3 million viewers.[17]

The last show, broadcast on 22 December 2007, showed memorable clips from previous interviews.


Original series

Series Start date End date Episodes
1 19 June 1971 12 December 1971 21
2 3 June 1972 17 April 1973 37
3 8 September 1973 22 January 1974 23
4 28 August 1974 25 December 1974 18
5 30 August 1975 14 February 1976 24
6 4 September 1976 7 April 1977 25
7 3 September 1977 2 January 1978 18
8 2 September 1978 10 February 1979 24
9 22 September 1979 15 March 1980 49
10 6 September 1980 7 March 1981 45
11 3 October 1981 3 April 1982 50
12 28 March 1987 16 May 1987 8
13 28 May 1988 23 July 1988 8
14 9 January 1998 5 December 1998 11
15 8 January 1999 17 December 1999 15
16 21 January 2000 7 April 2000 12
17 8 September 2000 12 November 2000 10
18 17 February 2001 21 April 2001 10
19 22 September 2001 24 December 2001 10
20 23 February 2002 18 May 2002 10
21 21 September 2002 24 December 2002 10
22 22 February 2003 3 May 2003 9
23 20 September 2003 29 November 2003 10
24 21 February 2004 24 April 2004 10
25 4 September 2004 25 December 2004 11
26 12 February 2005 9 April 2005 9
27 8 October 2005 24 December 2005 11
28 4 March 2006 22 April 2006 8
29 16 September 2006 23 December 2006 13
30 5 May 2007 23 June 2007 7
31 15 September 2007 17 November 2007 9


Date Entitle
10 April 1982 10 Years of Parkinson
23 June 2006 The Best of Parkinson
24 November 2007 The Music Special
16 December 2007 The Final Conversation
22 December 2007 The Final Show


  1. 1 2 Parkinson, Michael (2010). Parky's People. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 8.
  2. Parkinson broadcast dates
  3. Jason Deans. "BBC1 makes all the right moves". the Guardian.
  4. 1 2 ABC Television: Enough Rope with Andrew Denton (interview transcript)
  5. "Dr Jacob Bronowski Interview". BBC TV. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  6. "How to talk to anyone in the world".
  7. Parkinson, Michael (2010). Parky's People. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 9.
  8. Parkinson, Michael (2010). Parky's People. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 42.
  9. Radio Times 15–21 December 2007: Goodnight... and Thank You
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Parkinson: The Interviews
  11. "Orson Welles Interview Parkinson". Youtube. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  12. A summary of the interview and aftermath can be found in The ‘sexist’ 1975 Helen Mirren interview on Parkinson will make you angry by James Leyfield, Yahoo!, 22 February 2016. Some of the interviews in which the episode was discussed were in BUST Magazine, Oct/Nov 2010, Telegraph, by Gina Piccalo, 7 February 2011, the Mail on Sunday, by Elaine Lipworth, 20 July 2013, and the Radio Times, 10 February 2013 (by Francine Stock) and 21 April 2016 (by Richard Godwin).
  13. "Parky was a".
  14. "BBC NEWS - Entertainment - Jones slap tops TV chat show poll".
  15. "'God will judge me on Iraq invasion' says Blair".
  16. "Parky to retire after next ITV1 series". Digital Spy.
  17. "BBC NEWS - Entertainment - More than 8m watch Parky farewell".
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